Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center, 430 New Karner Road, Colonie, New York gave us a wide ranging interview on March 4, 2011. In this fourth in a series, Keven discusses concerts, exhibits, and bingo:
Q: Does Albany have more Irish as a percentage of total population than Boston?
A: Yes, that's correct. That comes from the US Census. The form people fill out has a space for ethnicity and national origin in the optional questions section. Of course, if you go to Boston, which is a big city, you can find places that have very high percentages of Irish. For instance, South Boston, which may have more people than the entire Capital District, is very high in people of Irish heritage.
Q: There really is an audience for Irish Americana here, isn't there? As much that, as folk music appreciators.
A: Yes, in our neck of the woods, the people often know the Irish songs.
Regarding concerts at the previous Hall location in East Greenbush, we brought in four or five national touring acts in Irish and Scottish traditional music to play at the Hall, open to the public at very reasonable fees. They were expensive for the Hall. We had to underwrite all of those. We would have had to draw in 500 people to break even, and we never planned that we would. Each concert cost us between advertising, sound and lights, performer fees, etc. between $3,500 and $5,000. With the reorganization of the Hall, we cannot justify such concerts at this time. We will be presenting top notch Irish and Scottish traditional music again, but it won't be until the fall before we can justify that kind of expense. Maybe we can find some of our old musician friends who will appear for a discounted fee. I am talking to a couple of groups who are willing to do that, and it's a matter of finding times and dates.
But we feel good that the active Celtic arts are going well. We wanted to promote the learning of the arts before we turn to the concerts and presentations. They go hand in hand in a circle, but we wanted to be sure we have the learning established first.
We did participate in the Irish perceptions lecture series. We paid a fee to the Irish American Cultural Institute, which is a not for profit partnership between the cultural organization and the Irish government and academia. They would send lecturers over from Ireland: usually two in the spring and two in the fall. We would still be doing that if it were available. It was dropped and it was unfortunate because it was great.
We do have two speakers committed for speaking on cultural matters and we hope to set that up for the fall. Tom Hetterman, who is an Irish dance teacher, is going to do an overview and history of the Irish language.
Q: What is the exhibit that Chrissy (a young woman near us working with prints during the interview) is working on here at the Hall?
A: For some time, the Irish American Heritage Museum has provided the Hall with a revolving exhibit from the museum. The one most people remember concerned the American Presidents who had Irish ancestry. Adams was the first one and he was our second President. They showed from Adams all the way up to Clinton.
I was in Ireland right after President Clinton visited there. With my gray hair, with me being an American in Belfast, and me being there probably six weeks after Clinton, all the kids were convinced I was President Clinton!
But back on this installation coming in now, it's a thirty panel display of the Irish in music. The exhibit demonstrates the influence of Irish music on American culture. A lot of people don't know how much rock and roll comes from Irish rhythms and how much jazz and tap dance were influenced by Irish music. Certainly tap dance is almost directly related to Irish step dancing. The early Irish immigrants and their interaction with African Americans produced tap dance.
Q: How often do you do bingo here at the Hall?
A: We do bingo every Friday night and Sunday night at 7 PM. It's a $6,000 game, meaning the regular prizes add up to $6,000, and there are two share-the-wealth games. The average amount of money we give away is between $9,000 and $10,000. A share-the-wealth game involves a split prize based on the money spent on that game. One of those games has a 70 / 30 split and one has a 75/25 split with the larger percentage going to the winner and the smaller portion going to the hall. Doors open at 4 PM and games begin at at 7 PM.
Q: Where does the Celtic Hall want to be in five years?
A: We want to be right here!
We like the location. The building is certainly adequate. We have an option on land next door if we need it.
We'd like to become a regional cultural center for the northeast. We want any program that comes to New York City or Boston, to also come here. Theater, music, everything. We cannot draw the numbers New York does – put on an Irish play and have 2,000 attend. But we can expect a couple hundred people. This can be a thriving Celtic cultural center with devoted locals and far traveling fans!